World Water Day 2017: Water Aid in Humanitarian Crises
Syrian children enjoying clean water after the ICRC installed washing basins at several posts along the Syrian border in north-east Jordan. 05/07/2013 Photo credit: ICRC/ Alexandre Wagnieres
Water is a basic need and fundamental human right. The annual World Water Day on March 22nd highlights global water issues, focusing this year on raising awareness about wastewater. Many people around the world lack access to a safe, uncontaminated and local water supply. World Water Day 2017 encourages the reduction, reuse and treating of wastewater to prevent environmental pollution and ensure that clean water is not wasted, particularly at a time when so many people worldwide have difficulty accessing this vital resource.
With every crisis, access to water is an issue. Natural disasters, drought and conflict can all cause a population’s water supplies to be disrupted. When this happens, people are often forced to travel long or dangerous distances, or uproot their families and move homes, in order to find water.
Access to a safe, sufficient, clean water supply is particularly difficult in conflict situations, due to displacement, lack of resources and disruption of services by armed groups. Hygiene and sanitation levels often deteriorate and illness and death occur as people resort to using polluted water for drinking and washing. Water collection becomes extremely dangerous, especially for women and girls.
Irish Aid works with partner organisations to meet the water, sanitation and hygiene needs of men, women and children affected by conflict and violence as well as other humanitarian crises.
The provision of safe, sufficient, regular and clean water supply is a humanitarian priority for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a key humanitarian partner for Ireland. ICRC water teams work in over 80 countries, providing water for populations affected by conflict and violence. In 2016, the ICRC covered the urgent water needs of 28 million people, and in 2017 these water operations will remain crucial to saving lives, particularly in the Middle East and among persons displaced in the Lake Chad Basin region as a result of conflict.
The Rapid Response Initiative is a central feature of Ireland’s humanitarian assistance programme. Through this initiative, Ireland responds in a practical way to conflict-related, protracted, forgotten and underfunded crises by sending in emergency relief supplies and deploying highly-skilled personnel, including water, sanitation and hygiene supplies and specialists.
In 2016, six Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialists from Ireland’s Rapid Response Corps were deployed to UNICEF’s and UNHCR’s humanitarian and emergency response operations in Greece, Macedonia, Lebanon, Uganda and Lesotho to improve refugees’ access to water and sanitation. We also deployed another Rapid Responder in early 2017 to support UNICEF’s response operations to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene for refugees in Greece.
In 2016, Ireland also donated its pre-positioned and stockpiled emergency relief supplies – including soap bars, jerry cans, water tanks, hygiene kits, latrine plates and spades for digging latrine pits – for distribution to families displaced by conflict, violence, drought, floods and hurricanes in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Iraq and Haiti to help meet their immediate water, sanitation and hygiene needs.
Ireland continues to support the rights of every man, woman and child to the essential resource of water, through its dedicated humanitarian assistance and development programmes.